As I said in the video, I feel like this blog was a long time coming. Since I accepted the “call to ministry”, I have wrestled with different ways that I naturally express myself. Here are four things that easily came out of my mouth that made me think I was unqualified for public ministry:
- Think what you want to think
- Work out your own salvation
- Read your Bible yourself
- My relationship with God is between me and God
- If Jesus didn’t feel what I struggle with then how can he do anything for me?
Even though I know that ministers are people too, it is hard to get away from the ideas that people have about who and how ministers are supposed to be. That’s why it took me so long to say “Yes” to the idea that this is the arena in which I shine the most. I can tell you for a long time there were so many other things that I would have chosen to do besides being a minister. In fact, most of my career choices were attempts at getting out of it. But, it was people who don’t go to church or those who have left church with a broken heart that turned me around. I don’t know how many people have told me that if I had a church they would attend. What I heard from many of them was that they were interested in their spiritual development. Many of these people had actually read the Bible or had been on a deliberate spiritual journey with other disciplines. Most realized that what was missing for them was a consistent community of practice. They told me that they considered church, but they also didn’t want to check their brains at the door. They wanted to take responsibility for their spiritual growth, but they had no intentions of “drinking the Kool-Aid” and did not want to be told what to think. I thought to myself, I’d love to worship in a place like that myself. And so it began…
One of the main reasons I did not want to be a minister is because so many people have these strange ways of projecting onto ministers an idea of spirituality that they would never hold themselves to. Personally, I always thought it was strange that so many people, both religious and non-religious seem to always know what a “Spiritual person” should or would do, but can somehow give themselves a free pass from living by those same standards. Is it just me or is that just crazy? I’m a Protestant because I am for the idea of the Priesthood of All Believers. If you never heard of it and you are a Protestant Christian click the link. To me, the Priesthood of All Believers means that all people who choose to follow Jesus’ teachings are responsible for their own spiritual development. As Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “work out your own salvation”. But since most Christians don’t read the Bible, I felt like I didn’t feel like telling them this and have them getting mad at me for not working out their salvation for them. Which takes me to reason two that I held off being a minister for so long. Many people love saying what is or isn’t in the Bible even though they never even read it. For me it is often easier to have conversations on Spiritual topics with people who can admit that they have never read the Bible and don’t go to church.
I mentioned in the video that I left the church for a while before I chose to come back. The straw that strained the camel’s back for me was when I was talking to a minister who got annoyed with me for saying that I was tired of church because I kept getting in these silly debates with people who kept telling me what I could and couldn’t think. These people would seek me out, ask my opinion, and then go off on me when I told them what I thought. They would say crazy things like, “You can’t say that” or “you can’t think that”, to which I would reply, “I already thought it and I already said it. What I get out of the scriptures is between me and God.” They disagreed. I said, “Think what you want to think.” The minister asked me for an example. I told him about how I believed that Jesus felt lust and anger and all the other so called negative feelings too and made a choice not to be led by them, but rather used them in their proper context. And then I mentioned Jesus being a Priest in the Order of Melchizedek. To which the minister started getting even more agitated with me. That’s when he said, “You see, that is your problem. You are mixing this foreign stuff with the Bible and that’s why the people in your congregation are bothered with you.” I am not going to lie, when I heard that from him I got pissed initially. At the time I guess I was also guilty of holding ministers to a particular standard. I thought that they should have probably read the Bible themselves. I didn’t expect that they necessarily would agree with what I got out of it, but I did expect that they would agree that it was there or at least be able to say, “I am not familiar with that passage, but I will look it up.” I have since dropped that expectation.
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was [God] who said to Him:
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.”
6 As He also says in another place:
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek”
Anyway, after that point I left the church for a while because I needed to think and did not have any desire for people telling me what I could and couldn’t think about my personal relationship with God through the path of Christ. That’s where Mark comes in. Mark is a thinker extraordinaire. Or at least he asks some clear questions. He is an old military buddy that was right there when I was struggling with my place in the church. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know where his stand is on his beliefs right now. What I do know is that at the time of my biggest riff with the church his clarity and acceptance gave me the space to iron out where I was with the whole thing. His capacity to talk about the Bible and the world at large was so vast primarily because his head was not filled with what he was supposed to think. He had confidence in his ability to look at information objectively and make an intelligent and informed decision. And ultimately I think that is what God expects from us. As a human, would you want to be in a relationship with a robot who only thinks what you have programmed them to think. Of course not. Why do we think God is that way? Anyway this stream of consciousness is getting lengthy and I have to get on a plane to CO in the morning where I will meet up with Mark and likely have another mind bending convo. Maybe I’ll share when I get back. Until then, I leave you with this thought from C.S. Lewis about how a person’s relationship with God might effect their lives. Unbeknownst to many of his fans, Lewis, was Christian along with J.R.R. Tolkien, both of whom did the world the great service of not surrendering their brains when they accepted their faith.
Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? — C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity
If any of what I said sounds too rough for you, I hope that someday you see that the right to think is a God given liberty. Still it is up to you what you do with it. I just believe in all of our potential to think higher thoughts toward a greater understanding and expressions of our mutual and universal freedoms. But hey, I could be wrong.